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Crowdfunding to save historic Masque Theatre in Muizenberg. #LockdownSA

The 61 year old Masque Theatre in Muizenberg is crowdfunding in order to stay open. The community theatre, a non-profit organisation, is reaching out to its community for support. Like many theatres, lockdown has put the Masque Theatre in very real jeopardy, facing the cold, hard reality of permanent closure due to the implementation of the nationwide lockdown.

The Masque Theatre, however, is more than a building – the theatre is its people. In 1957, attorney Bertie Stern bought a dilapidated bowling alley next to the railway station in Muizenberg and together with his family, transformed it into a thriving community theatre. At the time the theatre opened in 1959, the Masque and the Old Space Theatre were the only multi-racial theatres in Cape Town.

Since then, the Masque has enjoyed a long and vibrant history of serving the amateur dramatic societies of Cape Town. It is also often enjoyed as a venue in the South Peninsula for visiting professional offerings, and many of South Africa’s professional actors have trodden the boards of the Masque in their time.

In October 1997, a devastating fire gutted the community theatre. With the insurance payout only R400 000, a massive fundraising project was put together by the amateur theatre community to raise the balance of the funds to re-build the theatre. The Masque re-opened in 1999.

The power of community theatre is it is living evidence that passion for theatre tends to have a very resilient flame. To this end, the Masque Theatre has undertaken several inspiring initiatives during lockdown. The purpose of these activities is to serve those who are missing their chance to grow in the live theatre space.

Five weeks ago, the theatre’s Bertie’s Ghost Light’s programme kicked off. Named after Bertie Stern, the online programme creates live in-the-moment experiences for theatre makers and the Masque Theatre community. To date, the Bertie’s Ghost Lights programme has had over ten online events with over 100 attendees across four continents. The programme includes a mentorship offering and life coaching for members of the theatre community needing support while theatres are closed.

The Masque team have a strong hope that the campaign, launched on donations based platform, BackaBuddy, will enable the Masque to keep its doors open and continue to serve the theatre community, develop young actors and provide an affordable venue for amateur and professional productions.

When the crowdfunding campaign was shared in a quick preview burst amongst a small group of close supporters, it raised R16,000 in the first two hours. The campaign has thus far raised a total of R77 943.05 with contributions from 107 donors.

In order to pay expenses through the anticipated period that theatres will be locked down and for the Masque to burst back to life with some very special shows (including the theatre’s own amateur production of Sister Act The Musical), the theatre needs to raise R250,000.

“The beauty of crowdfunding is that so many people and organisations can be reached by many people contributing only a small amount of money towards the cause in question”, says Daniel Enticott, Chairman of the Masque’s Board. “People can contribute as much or as little as they are able to.”

“Working on this campaign has shown me how unique the Masque Theatre”, notes actress and Board Member Erica Schofield. “For any company to survive over sixty years is quite some feat – for a theatre to do so, is phenomenal. This building shows that fires come and go, even global pandemics will one day pass, yet the legacy created by a community’s shared passion remains. We really hope the public will support our BackaBuddy campaign”.

To support the Masque Theatre:

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